1. #1
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    Question Who supervises your dispatch

    There's a bit of a storm brewing in our county. The board of legislators wants to move supervision of the 911-dispatch center from the county sheriff to the Dept.of emergency management. This has gotten the current and newly elected incoming sheriff all lathered up.They sent letters to the news and a mass mailing to county residents how this will affect their safety yada-yada-yada.
    Now mind you, the current sheriff has made statements in the past that his lieutenant who supervises the center is overburdened and needed a new position to supervise that dept. It seems the legislators have granted his wish without a new hire on the county payroll and now he's upset.
    I'll quote from his letter to the populace,"Dispatching, co-ordinating and controlling all these services is properly a law enforcement function and should be performed under the supervision of a law enforcement professional---not a civilian appointee."
    Now I've no gripe with our current dispatch system, they do a great job. However, maybe emergency management will see a bigger picture when it comes to overall co-ordination.Then again, if it ain't broke,no need to fix it.
    Who handles dispatch in your areas? Who should it be supervised under?

  2. #2
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    Our Public Safety Dispatch Center is located at the Police Station.

    Public safety dispatchers salaries come out of the Police Department budget.

    While the dispatchers are cross trained in police/fire/ems dispatching, it seems to me that the "best and brightest" always seem to be assigned to PD Control, not Fire Alarm!
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

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    Our dispatch is handled by the sheriff's office. When 911 came into being just 10 years ago, they were going to call our old fire-phones (??!). Now, they are actually dispatching.

    They rotate personnel from the PD board to the fire board and to jail control. Seems like they never have enough bodies in the room, though. Otherwise, they do a decent job. Not sure if a civilian ESDA-type angency could/would do a better job. It all comes down to training.
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    Post Different Strokes for Dif.............

    I don't think there is a one-size-fits-all here. We had a Police communications center, a Fire Communications center, other county agencies all had their own, Etc. With a population over 820,000 in our county, and a call volume that was out of sight (244,000 Fire/EMS and over 1 Mil. Police in 2001) Everything was brought under one roof and taken over by a separate agency not answering to PD or FD management. So far, thanks to some people who want to make it work, it is progressing. There are bumps in the road of course, but nothing like the naysayers had predicted. Along with constant advances in technology, changes in operations will be the order of the day. Look for this type of thing to spread around the country. Stay Safe....
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    the military is led by a civilian.

    oh wait, nevermind, i can see why this could upset some people.
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    Our dispatch was under the city police department. But then the county took over 911 and built a new center in the court house made up a 911 board and made dispatch its on agency. It is controlled by the 911 supervisor who is a capt. on my department and the assistant Emergency Managment Director. Theres been alot of improvments and the are in the process of switching over to Enhanced 911.
    "I truly believe that tradition is important to the long-term survival of the fire service."-Lt. Andrew Fredricks, FDNY,9-11-01

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    Oh life in rural America. Our 911 Emergency management director over sees our 911. His office is in the basement of the court house. The calls come into the City Police Station, if it is a county call she will send it to the sheriffs office. One lady at each phone to dispatch, police/deputy,ambulance,FD,state, and also tend to all other calls that are coming in at the same time. Most of the time they do a pretty good job when you consider what pressure they are under. You can tell by the urgency in their voices if it's going to be a good call.

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    Hey, our county dispatch is in a basement, too! Right under city hall. It is recommended that 911 dispatch centers be separate from any other buildings that house emergency services. Ours is just too cheap to build a place of their own. I think that a central dispatch for all services is the way to go; cuts down on lost time and confusion that comes from relaying information.

  9. #9
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    Thumbs down Police run dispatch

    The city police department in the county seat runs our dispatch. We are one of 9 volunteer fire department in our county. Here are some of the problems we experience:

    1. Last night, an "anonymous" cell phone call called in as a property damage accident. County Sheriff dispatched. Ten minutes after the first call, and before only Deputy on duty was on scene, a local First Responder came upon the scene. Two vehicles, one inverted, in the middle of a state highway, blocking traffic, two injuries. First Responder calls it in as a Personal Injury accident. Ambulance dispatched. Seven minutes later, seventeen minutes after the first call, Fire was finally dispatched. Ambulance/Fire are separate organizations.

    2. About 30 days ago. We were dispatched to "clean up the road". Upon arrival, we found an inverted vehicle, electrical system still energized, and 50 feet into a field of standing dry corn. Deputy on scene wanted us to "sweep the glass off of the road".

    3. Twice, in the last month, our tones have been set off, at two or three in the morning, and then we are told to disregard, and another department is dispatched. We were already awake.

    4. I have listened to the dispatch tapes. The following IS TRUE ! ! ! We have had 2 school bus wrecks in my coverage area in the last 2 years. The first, in 2000, while I was Chief. A southbound pick up truck was hit in the rear by a fully load tri-axle dump truck. This pickup truck was pushed into a northbound school bus just in front of the drivers side rear wheel hard enough to rip the rear axle out from under the bus. Bus had 22 unrestrained students on board. Bus driver radioed their maintenance shop. Maintenance shop called dispatch. Dispatch asks maintenance shop employee "Is anyone hurt". Shop radios bus driver, who had NO medical training and asks if there was anyone hurt. Bus driver said no. Fire or Ambulance were not dispatched. County Sheriff was. Bus driver DID NOT check drivers of other 2 vehicles. After about 10 minutes, school nurse and school principle, who had heard the school frequency radio traffic, arrive and start removing students to another bus without an adequate check. (Nurse ask "Is everyone OK?" I guess if a first or second grader says they are OK that is good enough. I missed that part in EMT class!!) They then discover no one has yet checked the other 2 drivers. The nurse decided that they are not her responsibility, so she asks for an ambulance to check them. Bus driver radios maintenance shop asking for ambulance, shop again calls dispatch asking for an ambulance. Dispatcher on duty DOES NOT dispatch an ambulance, but instead asks "How serious is it?" Shop then checks with bus driver, who responds it may be serious. Shop tells dispatch. Dispatch then dispatches the WRONG ambulance. After several hours of investigation, I determined that the correct Fire and Ambulance personnel were dispatched to the accident 19 minutes after the initial call. The accident occurred about 2 miles from the fire station front door. While listening to the dispatch tape of the accident, we could hear the dispatcher more concerned with dispatching a city police unit to a "POSSIBLE" dead animal in the middle of the road in town than they were about a school bus accident at 7:22 in the morning. Asking non-medically trained civilians to make medical decisions is common.

    A year later, in 2001, after assurances from dispatch management the problems would be address, we had a second school bus accident. It took 25 minutes to get trained personnel on scene this time. One person was transported with head and face injuries. So much for improvements.

    5. An adjacent fire department, just south west of us, was dispatched to a washer fire outside of their coverage area, and in our coverage area. We talked with dispatch about the problem, and were assured it would be fixed. Two weeks later, same department was again dispatched to the exact same address for a car fire.

    6. Last winter, we were dispatched to an accident. Thirty mile per hour winds, wind chill 15 below zero. We were first on scene. During the next 10 minutes, I tried 7 times, on 3 different radios, to contact dispatch. We had no luck. Departments on the OTHER side of dispatch from us later told us they heard us just fine. It is not uncommon to be dispatched, and then loose contact with dispatch. We have been told that they "turn the squelch down" because they do not want to listen to all of the other traffic.

    We have been fighting this problem for YEARS. We started with the Asst. Police Chief who is in charge of the dispatch center, then moved on the the Police Chief, the Mayor, then the County Comissioners, all with no luck. My State Fire Marshall told me this week that there was NOTHING they could do. He said "I'm sorry this has not been more help ,but this is a very sticky situation."

    We do not believe it is a Dispatcher issue, but a dispatch center management issue. The dispatchers are trying to do a good job, but are not allowed.

    We are currently documenting each event so that when the legal feeding frenzy starts after we really hurt some one, maybe we can show where we tried to prevent it. It is the only thing we can do. It is not "IF" something bad will happen, it is "WHEN" something bad happens.

    ANY help from other department would be greatly appreciated.
    Last edited by ffemt1; 12-06-2002 at 04:31 PM.
    Non Volunteering Volunteer (Retired)

  10. #10
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    We have one dispatcher to handle both Police and Fire as well as be availble to contact all town depts. The dispatcher is in the "Communications Center" which is located in the Police Station, above our Central station. They are all trained 911 dispatchers, but deal w/ PD more than anything else so once the trucks are out the next FF to Central station takes over our communications from the radio room (one floor below the dispatcher so we have someone w/ more of a clue on the other end of the radio.
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    A big thing you need to concider when you have the "minor PDO accidents" is what the caller is telling dispatch. If the caller says they "just got in a little accident, no one is hurt and it isn't bad, we just need an report.", the dispatcher can't see what really happened. Here, we get those all the time. However, usually when the PD gets there, they see that it is actually two cars that are split in half, upside down, embedded in a tree, and leaking fuel. usually, as soon as someone, be it the PD or passerby reports any injury or hazzard, we get called.

    Now, I will say there have been those instances where the officer has decided that "I don't need no stinkin' Fire Dept" until the car explodes and the patient has bled out. Occasionaly I hear dispatch send an officer to a "car vs tree" with no injuries and not start the FD. At that point, I start heading for the firehouse because I know we will eb getting called in a few minutes.

    About the police doing Fire Dispatch. It does seem there is kind of a tug-o-war going on at times between entities. For the most part it works, the main problem is having one person handle 3 or 4 agencies when it is hitting the fan. Unfortunately, when the dispatcher is getting overwhelmed, the priority seems to sometimes fall on the PD.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    Our fire alarm is located in our Fire Headquarters and is handled by a Fire Lt. and a Private. There is a Deputy Chief that oversees the entire division. The division includes the fire alarm dispatchers and the line crew, the guys that maintain the master and street box system.

  13. #13
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    Our dispatch is a regional dispatch center that handles dispatch for 9 diffirent cities including us, Dispatch is located on the 3rd floor of a Fire Station, The system is divided up so that the 4 major ciities have there own tactical channels and the 6 smaller cities share a tri tac, All the cities have tri tacs that they share
    In most cities when you dial 911 it goes to the Police department first if it's a fire or emerergency matter it will be transfered to Fire
    If it's a cell phone it goes to the Californoia Highway Patrol

  14. #14
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    Here we have the County run EMO boss who is over the communications director who runs the 911 center for the sheriff and every police and fire department in the county but one PD. (21 FD, 4 PD 4 dispatchers) The one abstaning PD gets calls from the 911 center radioed to them then they dispatch.
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    The County where I live, volunteer and work part time as a dispatcher has a County-wide dispatch set up and ran by the County Seat City Police Department. The "Center" dispatches 1 paid FD, 11 VFD's, 5 Law Enforcement agencies, 10 Animal Control Agencies, Wildlife, DOT and numerous other piddley things. The majority of calls in this County are Law Enforcement related. Beings how the majority of calls are law related, guess what kind of training is availble to us? That is right, POLICE training. I cannot get any sort of EMS or Fire training beyond what minimal training we need for certification. The dispatchers want the EMS and fire training so they might be of some use to someone other then a vandalism complainant. We are by no means perfect, but sounds like we could be worse by the stories posted here. I belive it should be a nuetral agency run the dispatching center so that the PD doesn't whine about paying dispatchers to go to Fire or EMS training and a FD doesn't whine about sending dispatchers to Police training.
    The County where I work full time as a firefighter, we have a neutral, consolidated dispatch center. It works pretty smooth, but as with everything else, they are not perfect either. We sat in the station one day as a working fire dispatch was assigned out less then a mile and a half from the firehouse. When questioned later, the computer recommended a company from a ways away. The Acting Captain that day got a little grouchy with the poor dispatcher. I told him that it isn't her fault that she went with what the computer said, she didn't know any different.
    Dispatchers should be allowed to get out and ride with the companies to familiarize themselves with the area. They don't know where the firehouses are located or what resources are in them. They need education! They do not get the education they deserve from their agencies, take it upon yourselves to volunteer to take them on a tour, take them cookies or something, get to know them, you'll be treated as a friend and not as a job when you give them positive feedback and not negative.

    *Mark
    FTM-PTB-RFB-EGH

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    Mark, you are not the only one that I have heard say this. After complete frustration about not being dispatched properly, I called our 911 director. It was a family member that dispatch screwed up on and I was mad. This is when I first learned how our 911 system worked in this area. How the county doesn't give the funding for decent pay and training, the job-turn over rate, the only time anyone would call in was to complain, never a compliment. I was invited to come sit with them through a shift to see what pressure they where under.
    I now have a better understanding of what they are up against. Do I blame the actual dispatcher, sometimes but mostly I blame our city/county for not funding them enough to upgrade our 911 system, better training and give them a decent pay so that we don't have such a large turn-over. Our 911 director wants one central office but the county says NO!
    Note to Mark: When the FCCLA group at school made cookies and treats to pass out on 9-11 to our VFD's and city/county police, they included the dispatchers and the ambulance crew. I helped take the girls around to pass these out, and I can tell you that the dispatchers and the ambulance crew where pleasently surprised to be included.

  17. #17
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    Talking Ah, communications.....a constant struggle!

    Here in Eau Claire, WI we have a combined City/County dispatch center.

    It is in the courthouse in the Law Enforcement Center and we dispatch for all police, fire and EMS in the county equaling to 18 different agencies. We cover both urban and rural areas, with a combined population in the county of about 100,000. 65,000 in the city of Eau Claire and 40,000 or so in the county. During school, the city increases by about 15,000 with the college kids and about another 20,000 or so during the day.

    Our dispatch center runs with 4 dispatchers, minimum of 3. Each dispatcher is given a specific responsibility each day they work which breaks it up a bit.(city police, county sheriff, city fire, county fire, campus police, etc.) Our dispatchers are civilian dispatchers with a civilian "Director." We are employees of the city police dept. and are part of the police dept. command structure. It used to be run by a police lieutenant but now we have a civilian director.It's kind of a goofy set up, the county pays 70% of the budget but we are run by the city police dept. We have been a consolidated comm.center since 1970.

    Overall it is a good set up. There are always the individual dispatcher issues of not answering the radio or saying the wrong thing to **** off a caller but generally things are run smooth. It can get kinda stressful with a structure fire in the city, a major car crash in the county and a burglary in progress in one of the towns or villages. Most everyone sees only thier side of things. "They aren't answering me." Most of the time when someone calls on the radio we are on the phone who is whining about the neighbors dog barking or a car blocking the view from their picture window. Or talking to a guy who says his ex is late in returning the kids because it is his time to have them and is demanding to see an officer. Sometimes we are just busy with stupid stuff like that. Our rule is, unless the phone call is life or death, put them on hold and answer the radio.

    Also, I totally understand the concerns from above as well from being on both sides of the radio, BUT, we can't see things from our ivory tower. We can only go by what we are told. For example, if there is a car crash in town somewhere, we will normally get 20-30 calls just on that crash, each saying different information. Sometimes we are lucky to get what road it's on and if anyone is injured in the first 5 calls or so. Several times we get several reports of a one car in the ditch and it turns out to be a 3 car crash with one rolled over in the ditch. It's amazing on how many people that call do not know what road they are on or where they are at that particular moment. Some of these people were born and raised here too!!

    Keep your head down, your powder dry, and give your dispatchers a break. They have to do 4 things at once most of the time.
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    We dispatch. Police only get 911 calls when they say the magic word "fire" they send it to fire dispatch. All central station alarm calls go to fire HQ, and are dispatched by a firefighter..
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  19. #19
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    Originally posted by RebeccaB
    Note to Mark: When the FCCLA group at school made cookies and treats to pass out on 9-11 to our VFD's and city/county police, they included the dispatchers and the ambulance crew. I helped take the girls around to pass these out, and I can tell you that the dispatchers and the ambulance crew where pleasently surprised to be included.
    The secretaries here are recognized on National Secretary Day by being taken out to lunch and getting stuff. On National 9-11 Day, dispatchers aren't so much as thanked...

    *Mark
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  20. #20
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    "911 Dispatch" does all EMS/Fire/Police emerg dispatching from one central office, run by civilians. Most times they are pretty good. As with most calls their dispatch is only as good as the info given by the caller... Mostly.

    Around these parts, they have their own budget, that comes out of District funds, as well as we, (the depts) are charged a portion of our budget to help fund them.

    One of the funniest dispatches we had was a 130am call to one of our lookout sights. "A man fallen from a cliff, tried to climb up at least 4 times." (almost whispered) "I think alcohol may be involved."

    At the end of that call, RCMP still had not arrived on scene, so we requested that they "follow up" at the hospital. We were told by Dispatch that "they were on pager and had only just got out of bed." THIS WAS 2HRS AFTER the page was originally made. As we drove home, the Chief and I wondered, "And just what the hell do you think we were doing just prior to 130am??????"
    If you don't do it RIGHT today, when will you have time to do it over? (Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden)

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  21. #21
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    Well first off I'm a dispatcher or more correctly named, a Telecommunicator since I do more then dispatch. Some of these stories are scaring me. Someone said it's not usually the dispatchers fault, rather admins fault, which is true most of the time. We don't claim to be perfect, but perfection is a requirement in our job description. God forbid we should make a mistake. Anyway.... it is admins fault. Underpaid, over worked, understaffed, 3rd most stressful profession in the country with amazingly high turnover and no recognition or thanks. BINGO to whoever mentioned secretaries getting thanks on their day but on our day, nothing. Someone also mentiopned there is no "one size fits all" for how a 911 center should be run. However in my experience a civilain is your best bet. My center is directly run by a civilan, and has been for the past 31 years. Out "board" consists of the police and fire chiefs of the 3 PD's and FD's we dispatch for. Also 1 alderman from each town. While our Director runs the day to day ops, he has to talk with the "board" about budgetary issues and policy changes. We work closely with the board to handle any complaints, gripes, concerns, etc... We are governed by this board. Seperate committees are also set up. The fire ops committee which consists of my Director and all 3 FD Chiefs. And same goes for the Police Ops committee, Director and 3 police chiefs. That way the Chiefs are not bored to tears by their opposites issues or policies that have no effect on them or their agencies/operations.

    Anyway, civilian is best because you won't have anyone playing favorites. (hopefully) We get excellent training for both sides of the radio. And there are PLENTY of training oppurtunities out there for your Telecommunicators. Also, chances are your Civilian Director once worked radio and not just drove around in a police car for 15 years before he got "put" in dispatch because of an injury or something. You have to put somneone in there that WANTS to be there...

    Like I said we are not perfect. But also realize that if we are not answering you on the radio it's not because we are ignoring you. We have the police radio and 911 lines and admin lines and non-emergency lines we also have to answer in a timely manner. Since we are most likely understaffed we are doing more than you can imagine in that little windowless room that is the control center for numerous public safety agencies and hundreds of thousands of lives. Please be patient. :-) But that doesn't mean dispatch doesn't need a swift kick every once in a while. ;-)

    I am impressred by the open mindedness and understanding being shown by a lot of people on this forum and it makes me glad to know you feel this way.

    PLEASE tell your 911 centers admin that the dispatchers need to go on ride a longs. At my agency its a requirement for police, fire AND ambulance! Show them around the apparatus, your town, get to know them by name! Ask questions about policy and procedure, and vice versa. Don't stick them in a corner for 8 hours... We also require that new hires in the FD's need to sit with dispatch for 8 hours!! Let them sit behind the headset for a day, sometimes they leave a with a better understanding of what we do then a vet that's been working for 20 years and never sat in dispatch.

    As far as the info your getting from dispatch you have to consider the source of the info. 3rd party callers at times. They may not have a clue as to if there are injuries. What is the policy for accidents in your jurisdiction?? At mine we never send FD or Ambo to a unknown injury accident. HOWVER~! If the caller describes the accident scene to me, and she says she has no clue if there are people hurt but she says that once car is ripped in half and wrapped around a tree I can't make the decision to send FD and Ambo. Allow your Telecommunicators discretion. Common sense can be an amazing tool if it's allowed in the work place. Again, training comes into play and the Telecommunicator needs to ask proper questions to ascertain certain details. See if your 911 center has a good training program for new hires. Going back to policies or SOP's. If your 911 center does not have SOP's, then for the love of God make them write one. The liability is tremendous and your dispatchers have nothing to go by when giving out calls of ANY nature.

    Public safety is a joint effort between all parties involved. And the 911 center is a integral part of that effort. There is a reason it's called the 911 "CENTER".

    And if you could all do me a favor... Send a letter, make a call for no reason or go visit your Telecommunicators and just sit and talk or just say thanks for what they, for what we do. Maybe invite them out for drinks after a long hard shift...

    I'm taking this oppurtunity to pipe my horn, but we are the unsung heroes behind the scenes. We didn't take this job for the glory for which there is none. And we can all agree we didn't get into it for the money. But we get no to little thanks from the public for what we do on a daily basis. A thank you goes a long way... When you guys go save a life wich you do so well, people fail to realize that the citizen doing CPR when you walk in with the phone cupped between head and shoulder is getting those CPR instructions from us. It may be the reason your patient survived. And when that patient recovers and brings a pizza or box of chocalates to the station, please be aware that your dispatcher that handled that call didn't get a thing... We never expect anything, but....

    Ok, I've rambled enough. But whenever I get a chance like this to talk to the masses I have to take it. :-)

    MrJim911
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    Always the first on the scene.

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